London: Cassell and Company Ltd., 1954. Proof copy of the first edition. Paperback. This is a publisher’s proof copy of the British first edition of the sixth and final volume of Winston Churchill’s history of the Second World War. This copy comes to us from the collection of British book collector and book seller David B. Mayou, known for his knowledge and collection of Churchill material.
The Second World War is Churchill's history of the epic 20th Century struggle that was so indelibly stamped by his leadership. Seldom, if ever, has history endowed a statesman with both singular ability to make history, and singular ability to write it. As with so much of what Churchill wrote, The Second World War is not "history" in the strictly academic, objectivist sense, but rather Churchill's perspective on history. In his March 1948 introduction to the first volume, Churchill himself made the disclaimer, "I do not describe it as history... it is a contribution to history..." Nonetheless the compelling fact remains, as stated by Churchill himself, "I am perhaps the only man who has passed through both the two supreme cataclysms of recorded history in high Cabinet office... I was for more than five years in this second struggle with Germany the Head of His Majesty's government. I write, therefore, from a different standpoint and with more authority than was possible in my earlier books."
Certainly The Second World War may be regarded as an intensely personal and inherently biased history. Nonetheless, Churchill's work remains seminal, iconic, and a vital part of the historical record. The six-volume epic has been called "indispensable reading for anyone who seeks a true understanding of the war that made us what we are today.”
Given that this is a proof copy of the final volume, it is interesting to note that Churchill vexed his publishers with seemingly endless corrections and clarifications. Some have asserted that the U.S. publisher, Houghton Mifflin, ran out of patience with Churchill first, explaining the precedence of the U.S. first edition. However, Churchill's Bibliographer Ronald Cohen attributes the precedence of the U.S. publication to less romantic reasons "legal and financial, and not at all editorial." The British first edition of the sixth and final volume was published on 26 April 1954, during Churchill's second and final Premiership.
This copy is worn and clearly read, but intact with no notations except for the date “APRIL 1954” inked on the front cover. The tan card wraps show wear to the extremities, some loss at the spine ends, and a split running the length of the front hinge. The contents are clean with no internal spotting, but clearly read, with dog-eared corners and soiled page edges.
Reference: Cohen A240.4(VI).a, Woods/ICS A123(ba), Langworth p.264. Item #003558